As Suburban Council boys’ swimming and diving teams compete during the next month, the people they will be racing against to their left and right will be teammates, not opponents.
As the pandemic continues to impact so much, including high school sports, the Suburban Council boys’ swimming season will be competed in a virtual format through the first week of February with each team swimming as a unit in its respective home pool and uploading the individual results to the Section II website.
“The one nice thing about a sport like swimming is that it’s you versus the clock, ultimately,” Shenendehowa boys’ coach Chuck Dunham said after a meet last week. “For us, that’s been what we’ve been preaching.”
But there is disappointment in his voice as he said that, since the girls’ Suburban Council teams were able to compete head-to-head, in person, for most of the fall with only a couple of schools opting for virtual-only meets.
“I think I speak for all Section II swimming and diving coaches, where I was very thankful and went out of our way to thank our girls’ teams for showing that they could get through a whole season,” Dunham said. “Swimming and diving, it can be done safely if you follow the right rules and follow the correct protocols.
“I’m hopeful that by the time we get to the end of the season and have our championship meet, then we’re able to mirror what the girls did. I thought they did an excellent job of setting the example for what you can hope for at the end of the season, in the current environment.”
Dunham plans to keep his 26 swimmers and divers motivated as they race the clock twice per week.
“All we can do is adapt, do the best that you can go each time out,” said Dunham, whose team competes Tuesday against Guilderland/Voorheesville. “This is what we preach each and every year, if you swim your best and dive your best, the rest will take care of itself.”
A challenge for Dunham will be knowing what lineup changes to make this season based on intuition versus looking at the score and previous swims by a competitor after any of the 12 swimming and diving events.
“There are countless meets where we’ve won or lost because of changes that coaches on both sides of the pool have made in the middle of the meet,” Dunham said. “It’s a little nerve-wracking not knowing what’s going on at the other pool and having any idea of what their times are while you’re going out and swimming.
“You have to adapt because you want to give your kids different opportunities to swim, but you also don’t want to do it at the expense of performing and being able to come away with a win in the meet.”
Dunham put his top lineup out last week against Shaker in the season-opening virtual meet, leading to a 120-63 win.
“If I knew that was going to be the score, I would have swum the last five events as exhibition,” Dunham said after the final results were published.
Exhibition entries allow swimmers to compete against the clock for Section II and state qualifying times, but their finishes do not count toward the team’s overall points leading to closer final scores.
Dunham was happy with his first virtual meet victory.
“You have to take ownership and do the best that you can under the circumstances that you have and focus on the things that you do have control over,” Dunham said.
Dunham said the boys’ programs have a tentative plan to host a league championship meet akin to the girls’ meet in the fall. Several teams will compete remotely before the top three seeds face off at Shenendehowa’s pool.